Of Poets and Power Plants

When I arrived in Austin in the early 1980s, a few months out of college with my B. A. in English, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I planned to apply to graduate school, but my ideas about work / career were fuzzy at best. Fresh from four and a half years in Angola, Indiana, I was ready to immerse myself in Austin’s opportunities.

I leased my first apartment across the parking lot from the Rio Motel, directly opposite the landing strips of Robert Mueller Airport. In my first weeks, I looked for work, sorted out downtown’s one-way streets, and searched for community. BookWoman and WomenSpace at the University Y soon became two of my favorite places. I walked almost everywhere.

Almost right away, I landed a job at Milto’s Pizza Pub. I was relieved to be working full-time, but my pay was within ten cents of minimum wage and did not quite meet my expenses. Still, I was happy to be in Austin: I had met Janet Capone, Michelle D. Williams, and other poets at BookWoman and WomenSpace, and we sometimes read together.

By August, I’d taken a part-time job to supplement my restaurant wages and had been accepted in the graduate program in English at the University of Texas. I enrolled in a single course. By mid-February, I decided that one course was almost more than I could handle while working 55 – 60 hours a week. I was ready to do something different.

Early one evening in March, I took the South First bus to the Austin Women’s Center, where a staff member spoke about local opportunities with a federally-funded Women in Non-Traditional Jobs program. The City of Austin was offering temporary work to women to give them the experience that would allow them to compete for permanent, full-time jobs in technical crafts. There were ten openings for Power Plant Operator Trainee, and the job paid $2 more an hour than my restaurant job.

I left that evening with the job description and the City job application in hand. If I were hired, at worst I’d have four months at a better wage.

Little did I know this was the beginning of an industrial career that would last more than fifteen years.

© Copyright 2014 Cindy Huyser

3 thoughts on “Of Poets and Power Plants

  1. Polly Hughes

    Thanks for answering my first question about how you landed in the power industry. It’s wonderfully original the way you’ve wedded your poetic sensibilities with a power generation world few of us ever see so intimately.

    Liked by 2 people


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